Some will outrage you or make you cry; some will probably make you laugh. Some take a deep dive into key issues, like police brutality and the white supremacist movement, while others explore the richness of the African-African experience, from comic to tragic. None could possibly fully explore all the issues at play. But these shows might be a good place to start.
Before he directed Black Panther, Ryan Coogler directed this critically acclaimed movie based on true events. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III is on his way home from watching the fireworks in San Francisco. A series of events leads to a scuffle, and Oscar is shot by police. In a scene that’s all too familiar, protests break out across the city against police brutality.
Michael B Jordan stars as Oscar alongside Octavia Spencer in this movie that critics called a “celebration of life, a condemnation of death”.
Acclaimed director Spike Lee tells this incredible and unbelievable true story. An African American police officer in Colorado manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate.
It’s tough to run from your past when it’s written all over your face. A tattooed white supremacist decides to leave the violent group he’s been part of and build a new life with his family. However, his former friends are determined not to let him go. Jamie Bell is about as far from Billy Elliot as it’s possible to be in this powerful film that’s based on a true story.
Inspired by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ iconic DC graphic novel, Watchmen is set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws. The first episode opens with the real-life Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, when KKK members killed hundreds of black citizens – and, in real life, were never brought to book. The massacre was recently in the news again when President Trump chose the city as the venue for a political rally and this, coupled with the masks worn by many in the series, makes Watchmen feel eerily prescient.
As Slate said after Season 1, “Black-ish is about the upper-middle-class black experience, but it refuses to oversimplify the place that oversimplifications have in our hearts.” While Black-ish is a comedy, it doesn’t shy away from hard conversations about issues that confront the family daily, including racism and, in Season 2, police brutality.
Laugh-out-loud funny, not afraid to be controversial and unprecedented in sketch comedy TV history, A Black Lady Sketch Show is created by, written by, directed by and starring a stellar array of black women. Creator Robin Thede executive produces, writes and stars, with Issa Rae (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for HBO’s Insecure) producing.
Starring Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji (watch her comedy special here), Insecure has been praised as “an insightful, raunchy, and hilarious journey through the life of a twentysomething black woman that cuts through stereotypes with sharp wit and an effusive spirit.” The Guardian says it’s “hilarious but uncomfortable” and calls it the black Sex and the City.
Three young hopefuls trying to provide a better life for themselves and their families work their way up in Atlanta’s rap scene. Starring, directed and written by Donald Glover, this one sometimes veers into the bizarre in exploring issues relevant to the Black experience.
Every year, hundreds of kids from across the US take part in a festival inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, performing poetry and speeches based on his legacy. Follow the process they go through to prepare for the event. The 2018 biopic I Am MLK Jr is also on Showmax.
Examining the 1995 trial of one of America’s best-loved sports icons, this documentary series, consisting of four feature-film length episodes, puts Simpson’s time in the courtroom, and the outcome of his murder trial, in the context of racial tensions in the United States. DM/ML
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"I feel like we should stop calling feminists 'feminists' and just start calling people who aren't feminist 'sexist' – and then everyone else is just human." ~ Maisie Williams